Consumerism: The Fuel of Fast Fashion

By Keira De Vita

Through the advertised glamor of consumerism, the media has fostered a trend around a sense of staying on trend and having excessive amounts of clothing to achieve this level of media satisfaction. In the world we live in today, not every average person can obtain fashion items through popular brand websites. Fast fashion companies, such as Shein, identify this and target the consumerist population through flashing colors and lowball prices and have people desiring quantity over quality.

When identifying the root problem of consumerism, arrows point to social media. Trends do not stick anymore. In an episode of Anything Goes with Emma Chamberlain, one episode from the “trendy or timeless” series, Chamberlain addresses how social media reaches such an extensive level of the world; that most trends that circulate the Internet are considered ‘microtrends’. Microtrends make it impossible to keep up with styles or clothing pieces. Being able to afford the influx of products is a delusionary tale. Thanks to fast fashion brands, they make that price reasonable, but at what cost?

The explosion in consumerism created the need for the fash fashion industry. Stages of production rely on the labor of underpaid people and a wastefully large amount of resources. This way of production, therefore, enables these companies to produce large quantities of vastly different pieces quickly. Companies that have hundreds to thousands of products most likely operate under a fast fashion production style to have a wide, varied range of clothing or pieces. There is no way for them to sustainably maintain their company without falling into the exploitation of resources. The issue with fast fashion is their way of production. It “leverages trend replication and low-quality materials (like synthetic fabrics)” says The Good Trade, in their piece about the quality of fast fashion. Clothing pieces by these companies are supposed to replicate that of trendy wear or high fashion clothing for not only a cheaper price but cheaper quality, this aids fast fashion in growing (the need for fast fashion because they can keep up with quantity).

The justification of fast fashion can never be fully established as fundamental, solid proof due to the fact that there are surface pros of fast fashion but as it is looked at from a bigger perspective they are ultimately cons, the cons outweigh the pros. Consumerism will nurture the downfall of resources available on Earth as time continues.

When looking at options for sustainable shopping that is less expensive, thrift stores are an excellent place to start. It is difficult to go to any store without resorting to some sort of unsustainable use of resources. Another important reason to reduce fast fashion consumption is the exploitation of underpaid and mistreated laborers. In the article “Dressed to Kill” the interviewer found that the factory workers in six of the 1,000 Shien factories in Australia were working 75-hour weeks and making around £1,186 or $1,355.14 (GBP/USD as of October 4, 2022). This raises the question, is it worth the impact on laborers and the environment for an eight-dollar shirt manufactured with low-quality materials? If it proves not a fair weight out and thrifting/sustainable shopping becomes a new option for more people, here are some thrift store and small business recommendations: 

Thrift Stores (typically cheaper than small businesses or boutiques): 

Goodwill, Savers, Hope Thrift, and local thrift stores, are good cheap places while Plato’s Closet and Crossroads tend to be pricier. These pricier thrift locations can offer higher quality pieces or specific style pieces. 

Small businesses and Apps:

A great place to start the search for one’s specific style is through Instagram, Depop, Curtsy, and Etsy. A Multitude of other options are available but these are solid places to begin. Instagram can be used to find clothing, accessories, home goods, and more for a large range of prices: the pieces sold are either produced by the owner or their company making it more sustainable and reliable. Depop and courtesy are solely for the resale of clothing recently owned by the seller. This means that the clothing will be used by a new owner rather than filling up the landfill. Esty is more handmade: crafts, jewelry, home goods, self-use products, etc.